Lake Twp.: Trustees voice opposition to EdChoice program

Larry Limpf

A resolution opposing the controversial EdChoice school voucher program has been approved by the Lake Township trustees.
The trustees Tuesday unanimously approved the resolution that requests the state repeal the “ill conceived” program that will provide up to 60,000 state-funded scholarships to students who attend EdChoice designated public school buildings. The scholarships are to be used to attend private schools that meet requirements for program participation.
“This board believes that the EdChoice voucher program as it currently exists presents serious constitutional issues regarding the separation of church and state and the funding of religious institutions with public tax dollars,..” the resolution says.
It also notes the Ohio legislature has recently approved amendments that “…greatly increase the number and availability of vouchers for students to attend private/parochial schools at public expense.”
Currently, parents or guardians can apply for vouchers based on their income or if they reside within the boundaries of a school district that is considered a low-performing school as determined by the state’s report card system.
In the Lake school district, students attending the high school and middle school would be eligible to apply for vouchers, according to a list compiled by the Ohio Department of Education.
The voucher amount is currently $4,650 for student in grades K-8 and $6,000 for grades 9-12. EdChoice would pay either the scholarship amount or the private school's actual tuition amount, whichever is less.
Jim Witt, Lake school superintendent, addressed the trustees, saying the state’s method for determining “failing” school systems is flawed.
Tim Krugh, Lake school board president, said the board and administration are not opposed to school choice “but the system has been corrupted by special interests.”
Richard Welling, a township trustee, said the township would feel the effects of the program if tax dollars are drained from Lake schools, forcing the school district to seek more local property tax millage.
“It affects all of us,’’ he said. “It’s not a very fair system.”
Witt and Krugh said they’ve talked with State Sen. Teresa Gavarone and Representative Haraz Ghanbari about the program and the legislators were receptive to their concerns.
The list of schools that would be eligible for the program came out in November and has been criticized by many in the legislature from both parties. Lawmakers last month voted to delay the program enrollment start date for 60 days until April 1 and use the time to come up with an agreement on a list of eligible schools.
Following the vote to delay, a complaint was filed in the Ohio Supreme Court by Citizens for Community Values asking for a writ of mandamus to force the state to proceed with enrollment and prevent any students previously eligible from being dropped.
“…these EdChoice Scholarships for tens of thousands of Ohio’s children became a vested right in November 2019 when a population of eligible students was identified and they and their families began making decisions to receive EdChoice Scholarships,” the complaint says.
In other business Tuesday, the trustees agreed to re-hire Steve Poiry as a part-time patrol officer. Poiry last year retired from the police department as its School Resource Officer. Chief Mark Hummer presented a plaque to Poiry for his years of service to the school system and the township.



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